Initiate those honesty tests!

Absolutely not!" That was Chief Executive Officer John Fowler's response to Plant Engineer Vince Wilcox's suggestion that honesty testing be added to other assessment criteria in screening and hiring job applicants.
By Raymond Dreyfack September 1, 1998

Absolutely not!” That was Chief Executive Officer John Fowler’s response to Plant Engineer Vince Wilcox’s suggestion that honesty testing be added to other assessment criteria in screening and hiring job applicants.

“In my view,” Fowler said, “it sends a negative message to prospective employees and the public. It says, even before hiring people that the company doesn’t trust them and needs to check up on them. It denies the great American credo, ‘Innocent until proven guilty.’”

Wilcox agreed he had a point, but felt obliged to add the compelling reality that U.S. losses due to employee theft amounts to an estimated $60 billion a year. He made the further point that applicants’ references were often undependable because smart crooks know how to either fake references, or submit only those that won’t incriminate them.

“It is also common knowledge that more crooks are fired than prosecuted. Many companies are so fearful of lawsuits, it’s against their policy to provide bad references even for proven thieves,” said Wilcox.

Fowler agreed, but was persistent nonetheless. “When I interview an applicant,” he said, “my gut feeling tells me what kind of a person he is.”

A month later, an executive vacancy occurred in the Controllers Department. After several applicants were interviewed by Personnel, the financial vice president, and Fowler himself, a young man with good background and experience was hired. Three months later, he was caught in an embezzlement scheme.

Question : If it was your decision to make, what action would you take?

Fowler’s decision: The chief executive summoned Wilcox to his office. “Initiate those damn honesty tests,” he growled.